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US Imperial Decline Behind Latest Violence in Latin America

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By Jim Byrne for Fort Russ News

It is abundantly clear to the peoples of the world that the US Empire is waning in its influence. Its military, despite absurd amounts of money, sophisticated technology, and well-trained officials and troops, has not delivered conclusive victories in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, or any other illegal theater of war.

However, this reality is not always made clear to the peoples of the US. Few, if any, corporate-dominated media outlets report the context in which the US is maneuvering as one in which they are nearing isolation and a desperation that drives more war against so-called enemies, strict economic policies for so-called trade partners, and social disruptions to maintain old alliances.

But, with the election of Trump, many in the US are beginning to pay attention to the true nature of violence routinely meted out on the rest of the world by US Imperialism.

On the 4th of July, a report out of the Associated Press captured the accounts of several US and Latin American officials who described President Trump’s insistent desire to use the US military to invade Venezuela. In a strange twist, major news outlets like CNN and Fox News are carrying a story that superficially carries a criticism against Trump’s wishes to invade Venezuela, while these same news outlets only recently recycled the State Department lines about Venezuelan President Maduro and the possibility of “regime change.”

This kind of willful amnesia runs rampant throughout corporate-dominated media, and we can recall that during the 2016 election campaign, CNN gave Trump $2 billion in free advertising by covering him with so much air time. Moreover, the AP report itself recycles the same State Department lines about Maduro being “unpopular” and the government being “heavily repressive” and the sole cause of the economic crisis. Again, we have a story devoid of the regional and international context that is so important to making meaning out of the facts.

First, the regional context for US and Latin America is one of a history of US interventions dating back to the policy established in 1823 called the Monroe Doctrine. After anti-colonial rebellions pushed Spain and Portugal out of much of Latin America, the US boldly stated to other European empires that Latin America was “our backyard.” Since 1823, the US has conducted and supported the overthrow of many democratically-elected governments in favor of brutal military dictatorships across Latin America.

The mass violence of US Imperialism in Latin America from the 20th century morphed into different tactics in the 21st century like NGO funding, media manipulation, and creating street clashes to make governments appear unpopular and repressive.  

The reason the US has resorted to these tactics is due to the success and popularity of the governments in places like Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. These countries are part of the so-called “Pink Tide” of progressive, leftist governments that were swept into power by populaces exhausted by the Structural Adjustment Programs and debt-financing of the Washington Consensus’ neoliberal agenda. It is must be recognized that this occurred when US Imperialism was tied up in multiple wars during the opening stanza of its so-called War on Terror.

It is not hyperbole nor conspiracy to say that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the US opened the door for the rise of the “Pink Tide” in Latin America. One can be certain that if the full resources of US Imperialism were at its disposal in the early 2000s, it would have intervened to produce a different outcome than the radicalization of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, the return of Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, and the creation of many economic, political, and social programs, organizations, and institutions outside the dictates of Washington.  These were progressive steps forward for the region, but also for the international context as China and Russia offered non-exploitative trade policies and aid that has created the opening for a multi-polar world away from US hegemony.

As the US opened its illegal theaters of war in Afghanistan and Iraq to include Libya, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen, it continued to proved its inability to attain its desired outcomes of subservient regimes, isolating Iran, and protecting Israel. Even the horrific nightmare of Obama’s Drone program, which unleashed over 100,000 bombs on these seven different countries, couldn’t improve the situation for US objectives in the Middle East.

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Every single one of these arenas of war created by the US must be tallied as losses in its imperial endeavors. Its allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and Israel – have proven themselves to be just as bloodthirsty and ruthless as the US, as their illegal assaults, embargoes, and settlements against the populations of Yemen and Palestine continue to embolden the Camp of Resistance consisting of Iran, Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, Palestinians, and not least of all the Syrians.

Combine these losses with the ineffectiveness to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and isolate the People’s Republic of China, and the picture is clear: the US Empire is in full strategic retreat. This international context has forced the US ruling class to reassess the balance of forces and shift its attention to Latin America.

After the untimely death of Venezuela revolutionary president Hugo Chavez and the subsequent election of Nicolas Maduro, suddenly the price of oil dropped worldwide because US ally Saudi Arabia flooded the market. We must recognize this is as US imperial strategy to kill the funding for the widely praised and successful social and economic programs that nationalized oil production garnered for the Bolivarian Revolution. While it must be noted that the Venezuelan government needed to overhaul its monetary policies to better tackle the inflation and currency issues, we must again recognize that US imperialism conspired with Venezuela comprador capitalists to strangle the economy through a dastardly strategy of hoarding basic goods and then price gouging.

With a strategy on the economic front, the opposition created a small army of violent protestors who ranged from gang members, neo-Nazis, Colombian paramilitaries, and petit-bourgeois students. With these two pieces in place, the corporate-controlled media proceeded to manipulate the messages and images to convince ordinary Venezuelans and the international community that the Bolivarian government is authoritarian, brutally repressive, does not represent the people, and therefore must be removed.

For an example of such media manipulation, an image went viral of heavy armored police attacking protestors and it was circulated without scrutiny, until it surfaced that the image was from Spain in 2005. The high level of coordination of media manipulation evokes memories of the attempted overthrow of Hugo Chavez in 2002 when the corporate media made it appear that the government fired on citizens when indeed it was the opposition.

Since the outbreak of these tactics in 2014, Venezuela has endured another round of them last year that eventually led to the Constituent Assembly in July in which the opposition did not participate. The following fall, the opposition took heavy losses in local and regional elections. Their disunity and lack of connection with the Venezuelan masses continued this past spring with the re-election of Nicolas Maduro as president. It is in view of the failing Venezuelan opposition and the popularity of the Bolivarian project that we must place Trump’s insistence on committing the US military to intervene in Venezuela.

In the summer of 2017, Trump pressed his cabinet members like Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster on invading the country. Their response reflects the impotence of US Imperialism in this era: they did not want to use military force and risk the tenuous strategy of reversing the Pink Tide that arose 15 years ago. While it remains to be seen how the US imperial strategy of “Color Revolution” playbook intervention, like is currently underway in Nicaragua, will play out, the fact remains that the US simply cannot achieve its objectives in the old way. It has been forced to retreat from areas of the world it once lorded over and attempt to re-conquest Latin America through “soft coups.” The popular forces in these countries know that the US Empire seeks to remove any leader or government seeking an alternative, and are therefore fighting in the streets to defend their right to self-determination.

Finally, it is important to connect the desire for Trump to seek US military intervention and the renewed focus on subordinating Latin America with inclusion of Colombia as a NATO partner. Not only does this violate a number of international agreements, but more dangerously, it gives the US a much bigger base from which to move against Venezuela and any other country it deems challenging US supremacy.

Amidst all these violent machinations, reading the tea leaves reveals that, objectively, the US Empire is in peril and the world is moving toward multipolarity. We must hope that the anti-imperialist left in Latin America and in the US continue to hasten the decline of the US Empire. By doing so, we open the possibilities for liberation movements and socialist revolutions that create robust development and mutual cooperation among liberated nations.

 

Jim Byrne is an anti-war organizer and solidarity activist in Tucson, Arizona. 

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